Introducing Our New Leadership Team

The Rio Ferdinand Foundation has undertaken a root and branch review of our organisation following the sad passing of our Chair of Trustees, Janice St. Fort, in 2017. As a part of this review, and in the first of a number of changes, we have recently appointed a new leadership team for the Foundation to help us take the organisation into a new period of growth from 2019. The new team brings a strong background in corporate governance and leadership, and a wealth of knowledge across many sectors to inform our work and impact for the communities in which we work.

Introducing our Board

Rio Ferdinand

Our Founder and Patron continues to sit as a trustee for the Foundation, and acts as an advocate in the sports and media fields in which he works. Rio also supports the Foundation in building relationships with corporate companies to build resources, opportunities and connectivity for the charity and for the young people we work with. As well has his trustee duties Rio represents the Foundation at key events, such as our current involvement with Movement to Work, to open opportunities for young people to gain employment and build social mobility.

Bintou ‘Binnie’ Crookes-Martin

Binnie has been a member of the board of trustees since 2014, and has recently taken on the role of Chair following her position as vice Chair. Binnie is an experienced sports and youth work practitioner, working at a senior level in Lambeth Council before taking on a role leading Community Olympic Legacy programme at Hackney council during the London 2012 Olympics. Binnie has a strong background in charity leadership from her previous involvement as Chair of the West London Community Sports Trust. Binnie is currently a successful businesswoman working in social regeneration and community sport.

John Townsend

John joined the Foundation in November 2017, and is a Chartered accountant by profession, working on a range of public and private sector projects, including work for high net worth individuals, primarily in the construction, utilities and technology sectors. John has a keen interest in sport and youth development; he was part of the Manchester Commonwealth Games Legacy Board. He also sat on a London 2012 Olympic Legacy Board for the building of community facilities. John has a wide network of public and private sector networks that he has introduced to support RFF development.

Jim Benson

Jim is our most recent appointment, joining the Board in February 2019. Jim is a Governance and Legal professional with over 30 years’ experience of higher education, most recently as University Secretary at Brunel University London. Jim now runs his own company providing governance, legal and dispute resolution services. A member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators and an accredited Mediators by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution, Jim has worked in dispute resolution since the 1990s. Jim is a keen charity worker and, in addition to his work for the RFF, is raising funds and undertaking relief work in Uganda.

Udo Onwere (advisor to the board)

A former professional footballer, Udo is now a successful solicitor specialising in sports law and private client matters. In line with his role as Rio Ferdinand’s personal lawyer, Udo joins the board in an advisory capacity from March 2019, supporting the trustees to meet all legal obligations in administering the charity and supporting senior staff in reviewing contracts and agreements. In addition to his advisory position with the Foundation, Udo acts as a trustee for the Fulham FC Foundation and the prominent anti-discrimination organisation ‘Kick it Out’.

Introducing our Senior Management Team


Gary Stannett MBE – Chief Executive

Gary has been an advisor to Rio and the board since the establishment of the Foundation in 2013, and has now formally taken on the role of CEO with effect from April 2019. Gary is an experienced senior professional with extensive experience of developing and managing charities and working with partners from the corporate, statutory and policy sectors since 1997. A qualified youth worker and sports coach, Gary previously founded and led Active Communities Network, a multi-million pound international sports charity, as CEO for over 12 years. Previous to this Gary was the national lead for the Positive Futures programme, a youth initiative for young people at risk driven by the Home Office and the Premier League. Gary received an MBE for services to young people in 2009.

Rhiannon Watts – Head of Operations

Rhiannon has been with the Foundation in a number of roles since we began in 2013, supporting the board and leading teams to develop our services and connectivity. As Head of Operations Rhiannon will work with the CEO to implement our strategy and will be responsible for overseeing our operations, finances and fundraising as well as managing key stakeholder relationships. Rhiannon joined the Foundation with a background in education and international development and over 10 years’ experience working in the UK charity sector. 

Victoria Lowe – National Programmes Manager

Victoria has been the regional lead for the Rio Ferdinand Foundation in Greater Manchester since 2015. Completing a Masters in Art and Design and with experience of delivering multiple youth empowerment and community based initiatives, Victoria has developed and managed a range of social change programmes for the Foundation. As our new National Programmes Manager, Victoria will be responsible for quality assurance, delivery and funder/stakeholder reporting across a range of programmes in London and Manchester.